John’s outrage and disappointment at Sherlock’s lack of caring in The Great Game is so important.
He’s heard this man classify himself as a sociopath, seen him mistreat others with no regard to or understanding of their feelings and and also seem not to feel anything himself about the pain he in fact caused. And yet he’s drawn to him, all though s1, John can’t quit Sherlock, and he must tell himself every day, every time he does something amazing, every time he looks particularly delicious in a suit, every time Sherlock makes him laugh, he must tell himself, “Don’t. He doesn’t care. He can’t care about you like that so don’t.”
And then. And then Sherlock comes to save him from a gang of international smugglers, and Sherlock eats breakfast with him, and Sherlock is hurt when John maligns his intelligence on his blog. Sherlock must feel. He must have some feeling, right? He’s not a sociopath after all and the possibility of Sherlock must blossom in front of John every day and maybe he stopped telling himself those things about Sherlock never caring for him, maybe he even dared to hope for something, anything.
But Sherlock tells John to “go cry” at the bedsides of the dying. Sherlock leaves a bomb strapped to an old woman for hours extra simply, it seems, to out-do the bomber, to get one-up on him. Sherlock tells John he finds it easy to not care about the actual human lives that are at stake, and asks John if he’s surprised about this.
John says no. John laughs and says no. He laughs at himself. It’s almost written on his face: What an idiot, I actually thought this sociopath cared, and I thought he could even maybe care about me. But no, I was right in the first place, he doesn’t care now and he will never care. And you know what, I’m not even surprised.
And then he tells John not to make Sherlock a hero because they don’t exist and if they did, Sherlock certainly wouldn’t be one of them.
John’s theme plays, the musical equivalent of loneliness and despair and emptiness.
And John hangs his head, mournful of all the brilliant possibilities he’d dared to hope for. Of his hero.
And then John squares his shoulders, tells himself to shut off the part of him that feels for Sherlock, as he returns to stoicism, ready to help his colleague with the next case.
I love this, and it fits perfectly with John’s state of mind. Because John is on an emotional rollercoaster and it also explains the blog post about how touched he was by the pool scene, and why they seem much more domestic after that.
But also… I think John misunderstands what Sherlock means by not caring about people individually. I kinda side with him on this point. You can’t care about each person you don’t know on the same level that you care about those close to you, it’s crippling, and it lacks efficiency. Sherlock knows that emotions are not an advantage when it comes to saving them. He never says he does not care whether they die or not, he just says that he cannot spend his time uselessly being affected, because he has to save them.
"Will caring about them help save them?”
"Go cry by their bedside and see what good it does them.”
It’s a very rational and logical way of proceeding, but for John it is not normal. So he focuses on the “not being emotional” part and forgoes the “actually giving a fuck about saving them” part. To me, it’s their first and biggest misunderstanding, and all you said is really what is going on in John’s mind, but this moment is the first wedge in their relationship, and it’s only going to grow until S3. It’s hard to kill an idea, when it’s made a home just there, in your head…
I love how both their perspectives were successively shown and how it was revealed in S3 that they do not get what the other feels.
This is why I was originally so confused by John’s outrage. Like, so what, calm down, John, he says he doesn’t care about all these people but he’s still working his ass off to save them, so that’s a form of caring - why you so mad?
And it’s when I started looking at things from John’s point of view when it comes to Sherlock’s ability to feel that John’s reactions in this scene didn’t seem like overreactions anymore. They’re not fighting about what they’re fighting about. John isn’t mad Sherlock doesn’t care about faceless strangers (well, maybe a bit), he’s really mad because he thinks that means Sherlock doesn’t/won’t/can’t care about him.
This kind of error in communication is something that is really typical in close relationships and, well, happens with me and my husband all the time. I’m mad about something else we’re not talking about, so I’m yelling about an entirely different thing that’s not even that big of a deal. It’s a shit way to communicate your feelings, which is something these two are great at.